To know that I am calling her my biggest influence would probably irritate Taylor Momsen, which is precisely why she is someone I admire. She is a self-confessed loner, and even stated in an interview for Grazia that she is ‘crazy’. So what is it about her that makes her heroic to me? It’s that she simply doesn’t care. ‘My whole thing is feel free to hate me’, Taylor says, ‘I so don’t care if you hate me, but meet me, and listen to my record, and know me before you hate me.’
Whilst many remember her as the rebel teen Jenny in ‘Gossip Girl’ or the little girl in ‘The Grinch’, since 2010 Taylor has been the pioneer behind the female-fronted rock group ‘The Pretty Reckless’. ‘Light Me Up’ was the band’s debut album and consistent touring followed. However, their music is only a small part of what I admire about Taylor.
A role model for individuality
For me and many others like me who deal with identity issues on a daily basis, having someone like Taylor making bold statements in the public forum makes a big impact. We are all guilty of trying so hard to conform to a stereotype – pushing ourselves so that we fit in a box, fixating on being a label – that we forget that the best category we can put ourselves in is the one called ‘me’. As Taylor herself has put it: ‘You can’t face the world if you’re not being you’.
What Taylor optimises is originality and creativity; the reason she doesn’t want you to be like her is because she wants you to be your own person. In a world where celebrities and social media are very influential aspects of people’s lives, it is refreshing that she is speaking up for those who struggle to find a voice. This is not to say that some of her actions aren’t questionable; many parents have expressed their distaste for the fact that she smokes, dresses provocatively, and doesn’t hold back in interviews (she once joked about having sex with a priest, for example). Taylor’s response? ‘I’m just living my life and I’m not gonna live my life for other people’. Many would argue that being in the public eye means you have to take care in what you present, but what bigger lesson is there about life than to be yourself and learn from the mistakes you make? As she stated in an interview with Seventeen, ‘Generally, I like making my own mistakes and learning from them because that’s what I think life is about’. She is not using an image to sell herself, and she is not a brand; her music is what Taylor wants you to pay attention to. If you want to know about her, then listen to her songs, because she won’t tell you.
The Pretty Reckless
So I best mention ‘The Pretty Reckless’. The last four years have been about relentless touring, writing music, and even having to start again with work on their second album, ‘Going to Hell’, when their studio got ruined by Hurricane Sandy.
Taylor has been working in music since age 5, when her vocals featured on several songs for the soundtrack of ‘The Grinch’. Not only that, but she also writes music and plays a variety of instruments, mainly guitar, which I witnessed when I watched the band play in Camden this year. As band member and lead guitarist Ben Phillips claims in an interview with Total Guitar Magazine, Taylor ‘can kind of play everything but prefers the guitar – because guitar is obviously the coolest instrument!’
And of course she can write music too, which for me is a stronger talent that being able to sing; these days our music stations are filled with artificial pop that is made on a computer. This is not Taylor Momsen. Her band’s music is dark, catchy and brilliant.
A personal hero
So now I am on to the time that I met her: Download Festival 2014. I made it my mission, and my mission I did complete. It was not without doubters however; I had spoken to many journalists like myself who had said that they don’t like talking to her because she has a bit of an attitude, so I was a little cautious.
My moment came; she was there, and I tried to pull myself together, be professional. I nervously walked over and asked for a photograph. In my nervous state I struggled to take it, whilst she waited there patiently, made conversation and thanked me for being there. My year had been made. And she knew it too.
Finally, my biggest reason for looking up to her is that she has stated that she doesn’t care if people call her gay. She isn’t gay, but in her eyes, it shouldn’t matter. For all her gay fans out there, including myself, this statement means more than most will even know or understand.
So before you pre-judge or decide that she is an unsuitable role model, then realise that’s not what she is trying to be. She is just there in that box labelled ‘me’.